5 Ways to Relieve Moving Stress With Kids

April 14, 2015

Moving is already hard enough -- add in kids and your stress skyrockets. Here are some ways you can reduce the anxiety and make it a smooth move for everyone.

Are you and your family gearing up for a big move? Moving is, hands down, one of life's most stressful experiences for Mom and Dad -- and moving stress affects kids, too. "Moving can be an extremely difficult experience for a child. Forced to move to a new place, a child loses social support systems and must find new friends and establish new bonds with trusted adults, such as teachers," says Dr. Kristin A. Perret, a clinical psychologist who specializes in stress management.

Here are some issues that may pop up during the moving process and how to deal with them: 

  1. Problem: Your Child Is Anxious About the Move
    Solution: Frame the Move in a Positive Light
    You want the best for your kids, and when they're anxious, you're anxious. First, sit down with your child and discuss the reasons you're moving and what it means for your family. Listen to your child's concerns and comments -- they might not be what you expect. Mike Glanz, CEO of Hire-a-Helper Moving Service who recently moved with his two young children, says "When I talked to my daughter, who was who very upset about our move, she asked if she could bring her favorite horse picture. I finally realized she thought we were going to leave all her things behind."

    Help your child work through her fears and anxieties and do whatever you can to frame the move in a positive light. According to Perret, one way you can do this is by learning as much as you can about the new location and sharing the highlights with your little one. "By informing the child about and exploring the new environment, the 'unknown' becomes less alarming," she says.

    To get an idea of the local organizations and activities awaiting you in your new neighborhood, talk with parents in a BigTent community in your new area.
  2. Problem: You're Worried You Won't Have Enough Time to pack
    Solution: Turn the Chore Into a Game
    You don't have to do it all alone -- allow your children to pack their own belongings to get them involved in the process. Place boxes in their rooms a few weeks before the move and have them label and decorate the boxes with fun stickers and colorful markers. "Creating games of putting away objects, organizing and decorating can shift what might otherwise feel like a chore to a fun family activity," says Perrett. If you move some of your belongings ahead of time, turn the experience into a positive one. "Camping" in unfinished rooms makes for a fun adventure and a distraction to stress.

    And if you need an extra set of hands to assist with packing boxes, hire an errand runner to help out.
  3. Problem: Your Kid Has a Meltdown as the Movers Arrive
    Solution: Make a Plan
    Kids thrive on routines, and when their schedule is disrupted, it can spell trouble -- and a headache -- for you. To prevent tantrums, get ahead of the problem by cluing your kid in. According to Perret, a lot of your child's stress stems from logistics, such as the rooms not being set up in time, furniture not arriving and personal items or toys being misplaced. A lot of these issues can be solved through careful planning and organization. Make a plan for moving day and share each step with your child so she knows what to expect and is prepared.
  4. Problem: Your Little One Is Underfoot on Moving Day
    Solution: Get Help
    For small children, getting in the way on moving day can be dangerous -- heavy furniture is moved around, boxes are piled high and the front door is often left open. According to Glanz, find a family member or friend to watch your kids. Or hire a babysitter for moving day. "Have someone take them to do something special for a couple of hours, like the playground or children's museum," he says. An older child may want to be more involved in the process, but you should still have someone there who can make sure he stays safe amid the chaos.
  5. Problem: Your Child Feels Displaced in the New Home
    Solution: Get Back to the Old Routine ASAP
    When you move into the new house, it's important to get back to your old routine as soon as possible. Set up your child's room first so she can be surrounded by what's familiar to them -- and let her make some key decisions, such as picking out the paint color. "You have to keep in mind that a pretty large life event for them has just occurred," says Glanz.

Overall, the most important thing you can do to minimize moving stress is keep the line of communication with your child open. "It is important to listen to the child's concerns and try to alleviate them through conversation and thoughtful problem solving," says Perret.

Want some more de-stressing ideas? Try these 6 Ways to Relax When You Don't Have Any Time.

Rebecca Desfosse is a freelance writer specializing in parenting and family topics.

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